25 March 2013 EUR: Dr Honni van Rijswijk lecture ‘Narrative Interventions into National Responsibility? Stolen Generations’ Testimonies in 2012’

On 25 March 2013, Dr Honni van Rijswijk (senior lecturer at UTS Law School, Sydney, Australia) will visit the Erasmus School of Law and give a presentation in the Rethinking the Rule of Law research seminar series. You are kindly invited to attend this event.


Narrative Interventions into National Responsibility? Stolen Generations’ Testimonies in 2012


Dr Van Rijswijk’s lecture will be based on a paper entitled “Narrative Interventions into National Responsibility? Stolen Generations’ Testimonies in 2012”. This paper concerns the main responses on the part of the state and legal system to the experiences of the Stolen Generations—the generations of Indigenous children who were removed from their families throughout the twentieth century under the auspices of a number of different State-based legislative regimes. A key moment in this history was the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, which found that between one and three in ten Indigenous children had been forcibly removed from their families, and which produced the Bringing Them Home Report (1997), which summarized the findings of the Inquiry, based on an analysis of the legislative regimes and the testimonial evidence of Stolen Generations survivors, and also made a number of recommendations concerning state and public responsibility.

The Inquiry gave unprecedented authority to Indigenous testimony in its findings, which were based on thousands of hours of interviews. The Report documented the suffering caused by children spending their lives in institutions, foster homes and forced employment, away from their families, culture and language. The ongoing physical and psychological suffering, including mental illness, violence, incarceration and suicide, was also brought out.

The Report made its conclusions using an international human rights framework. It found that the forcible removal of children constituted cultural genocide under the United Nations Genocide Convention 1948 (ratified by Australia in 1949). It also recommended the use of the United Nation’s van Boven principles for victims of gross violations of human rights, including a full range of reparative measures—compensation, restitution, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. The national apology in 2008 was made in this context. There is still no federal reparations scheme.


The lecture is part of the research seminar series of the research programme Rethinking the Rule of Law. For this occasion, everyone who is interested is invited. Lecture and discussion will take place from 15.30 to 17.00 pm in room T3-16 on the Erasmus University Campus. If you want to attend, please notify us by email at mak@law.eur.nlbeforehand.


Dr Van Rijswijk will also be available for researchers who would like to meet with her and discuss their research in one-on-one meetings during the week of March 25th. If you want to meet with Dr Van Rijswijk, please send a message to mak@law.eur.nl.


Dr Honni van Rijswijk is a graduate of the University of Sydney Law School, and received her PhD from the University of Washington, where she was a Fellow in the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for the Humanities. Her research focuses on the intersections between law and culture, focusing on the justice claims of those whose suffering is rendered invisible by dominant legal and cultural frameworks. The project she is working on during her sabbatical, “The Aesthetics of the Continuing Past: Responsibility for historical suffering in national law and literature,” is an argument for the need of new frameworks and metaphors to articulate responsibility in the present for the ongoing effects of historical injuries, and is funded in part through an ECRG grant at UTS. As part of this project, she is examining State archives produced under the Aborigines Protection Act in the early twentieth century, which were used to control the movement, sexuality and intimate lives of Indigenous Australians.


We look forward to welcoming you at the seminar.


Best regards,


Sanne Taekema, programme director Rethinking the Rule of Law

Elaine Mak, programme coordinator Rethinking the Rule of Law

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